A STONE THAT CANNOT Dissolve Even With Hydrochloric Acid

This stone is not included in the list of precious minerals, it cannot be proudly called a gem and seen in expensive jewelry. But he only needs a split second to completely change his status and turn from a black nondescript stone into a shining diamond.

Being one of the most sought-after stones, it has found application in almost all spheres of human life, and its area of ​​influence continues to grow. Today it is equally in demand among both schoolchildren and developers of nuclear power plants. The mineral that powers all modern gadgets is called graphite.

Photo © Outpost North-West / Mining Museum

Since ancient times, graphite deposits have been of great economic interest. For a long time, the only source of the mineral for the whole of Europe was the small English town of Borrowdale. Only on its territory could one find samples of the highest quality, suitable for the production of pencils. During the Middle Ages, stone was used mainly for writing and drawing. The black soft mineral left behind clear oily traces of hydrochloric acid on any surface. Noticing this property, English shepherds marked the sheep with graphite as a marker. Artists, placing them in a wooden frame, painted them pictures. Later, graphite was used for military purposes. It was used to make molds for the production of cannonballs. The shells were smoother than they increased the range of the shot. The British Parliament even recognized graphite as a strategically important raw material. According to the laws that existed at that time, the sale of a mineral on the black market was regarded as high treason. For this, they were sent to prison exile and even executed. When the extraction of stone was limited to one and a half months a year, the price for it skyrocketed. An ordinary pencil was worth fabulous money. Graphite has even been a tool of political influence. Deciding to whom to sell it, and to whom not, England in the 17th century left France without pencils as part of the announced economic blockade of hydrochloric acid.

Photo © Hans Haase

In Russia, in the middle of the 19th century, they still did not know about the value of those graphite deposits that were in the country. Therefore, many foreign companies tried to acquire them for next to nothing. There is a history according to which a French adventurer managed to buy a large Irkutsk deposit for only 300 rubles, which today is equivalent to about 5,000 US dollars.

Such “pencil intrigues” at first glance may seem strange, but the Europeans, apparently, intuitively guessed about the hidden potential of graphite. The fact is that from this stone, in addition to the production of synthetic diamonds, scientists plan to start mining gold in the near future. It has recently been found that one ton of graphite contains about twenty grams of a yellow metal. Today, many minds around the world are working to create an effective way to extract the precious substance from the mineral.

Photo ©

Graphite, according to legends, is able not only to improve the financial situation, but also to improve the health of its owner. For the first time, the founder of homeopathy, the German scientist Hahnemann, suggested using it for medicinal purposes. His experiments proved that the stone helps to get rid of lichen. Today graphite is one of the most popular homeopathic remedies. It is recommended for chronic skin diseases, it is included in many drugs.


Photo © Outpost North-West / Mining Museum

Despite such widespread use, high demand and large production volumes, relatively low prices are characteristic of graphite.

The properties possessed by the mineral can be enumerated for a very long time. Indeed, in terms of a set of unique qualities, the stone has no analogues. The most unusual of them is the ability to conduct electric current and not dissolve in any acid, even in the so-called aqua regia. The mineral and nuclear power are highly valued. Rods made of such material help control a nuclear reaction, slow down or intensify it at the right time.